21 spring cleaning ideas to cut energy use and clutter
Your home will run more efficiently, and you'll feel more comfortable
Spring cleaning used to be about opening up the windows after a long winter, cleaning out the garage and storage closets, and taking a bunch of stuff to the landfill.
The new spring cleaning is more akin to a spring tune-up. It's designed to ensure that your home is working efficiently and that decluttering includes ensuring recyclable items don't end up in the landfill. Tackle most or all of the 21 things on the list below, and you're going to feel great about what you've accomplished. You're also likely to save on monthly energy bills.
Enter to win a new cordless vacuum cleaner
Oh, and if you haven't already, join Team Power Smart. It's free, and it's a good time to start a 10% Reduction Challenge that could earn you a $50 cheque over 12 months of saving. Given that you'll likely spend less time at home over the next 12 months, your home energy bills should be lower and your chances of saving 10% or more are much better.
Start with the kitchen
1. Organize the fridge
As you're rearranging items, take the time to give it a deep clean, too. You may discover (and remove) something gross. As you organize the fridge, try to keep it 2/3 full to improve efficiency, as an empty fridge works harder to maintain a cool temperature. That could mean adding several large containers of water, if that's what it takes.
2. Dust and vacuum fridge coils, wipe door seals
What if you never maintained your bike or car? Dust builds up on the compressor in the back or bottom of a fridge and can hurt the fridge's cooling efficiency. Unplug your fridge and carefully clean the dust from the coils twice a year following these steps:
- Unplug your refrigerator, and remove the grille protector.
- Use a stiff brush to loosen debris on the coils.
- Vacuum the coils and surrounding area.
- Clean and dry the grille cover before reattaching it.
- Plug your fridge back in.
It's also easy to wipe clean the seals on your fridge doors – and there's a simple way to check whether you need a new seal.
3. Clean the dishwasher, turn off the heat-dry setting
Soap scum buildup in a dishwasher can make it less efficient. Run an empty load on a short cycle and sprinkle a bit of baking soda in certain areas inside. Use vinegar in the rinse agent dispenser to ensure a deep clean. And while you're at it, check that your heat-dry setting is off. Allowing your dishes to air dry is a simple way to reduce your electricity use and save.
Tune your heating/cooling to the season
4. Adjust thermostats
As the weather warms, and you adjust your schedule to spend more time away from home, tune your thermostats to reflect that new schedule. If they're programmable, set them to 16 or 17°C overnight or when no one's likely to be home. If not, do it manually to save money. It may even be time to shut off the heat altogether in select rooms. A few years ago, a BC Hydro customer called us about a high summer bill, and after investigating, found that a baseboard heater had been left on in a basement room.
5. Dust fans and baseboards
That sunlight spilling through the window just exposed the dust on your floors. Imagine how much has built up on your baseboard heaters or on your various fans, including bathroom and range hood fans.
6. Change the direction of your ceiling fans
Nearly all ceiling fans have a switch located on the side of the fan base that lets you change the direction of the fan blades. In the cool months of the year, your fans should run clockwise to help circulate heat in a room. By summer, the fan should run counter-clockwise to push air down into a room to create a cooling effect on the skin.
7. Use window coverings strategically
You'll need less heat in the mornings if you open blinds or drapes on east or south-facing windows on sunny days. And as the weather heats up, you'll want to do the opposite to ensure your home stays cool throughout the day. Learn more about window coverings in our story about the pros and cons of air con.
8. Service your A/C
Air conditioners use a lot of energy, and even more when they're not running efficiently. Replace the air filter when switching from heat to air conditioning, as dirty filters make it difficult for clean, cool air to pass through. Clean fan blades and coils, but leave this up to a professional unless you're A/C system is on the ground. If it's safe to do it yourself, remove the cover, and use an environmentally-friendly cleaner such as Simple Green in a 1-to-10 mix with water.
Fix water and air leaks
9. Attend to that leaky tap
That drip-drip-drip may seem inconsequential, but it can add up to 11,350 litres of water each year, and if it's hot water that's leaking, fixing it can save on your electricity costs. Go a step further and install tap and shower aerators to reduce your water use.
10. Draftproof your home
It doesn't just make sense to draftproof before the winter season. Your home will stay cooler and more comfortable on hot days if your doors and windows don't leak. Learn how to check for drafts and fix them.
11. Clean the interior of your laptop
Daylight hitting your laptop screen tells you it's time for a clean. But the more serious issue can be in a computer's cooling system, where dust and debris can cause overheating and damage. To clean the cooling fan, power down, unplug, move to a ventilated area and remove the back plate, carefully removing any dust you see with a can of compressed air. You can even do this with a MacBook, but use a step-by-step guide to ensure you don't do any damage.
12. Clean computer, phone and TV screens
To clean screens, spray a mix of equal parts water and white vinegar onto a microfiber cloth and wipe gently in small, circular motions. Be mindful of the edges and making sure moisture doesn't seep around and under the screen.
Get the lighting right
13. Dust bulbs
Wherever possible, remove the light bulb to clean it, taking care to turn it off first. Clean it by giving it a wipe with a dry microfibre cloth. Avoid using abrasive materials, water, or cleaning sprays and polishes.
14. Replace inefficient bulbs with LEDs
Have you been waiting for that old incandescent bulb to burn out before replacing it? It's always better to replace it, as an ENERGY STAR® LED is going to start saving you energy and money immediately.
Clean up your laundry
15. Deep clean your washer
The interior, exterior and the soap/softener dispensers in your washer could all use some TLC. There are cleaning tabs you can use for this, but consult your appliance manual (or find it easy online) for specific instructions and cleaning alternatives.
16. Deep clean filters in your dryer
You've been dutifully removing lint from the filter, but something always gets left behind. Remove the dryer screen, wet both sides with hot water, gently scrub the mesh with a soft nylon brush dipped in water and liquid detergent. Rinse it and dry it thoroughly before returning it to the dryer.
17. Hang dry as much as possible
Your best bet for cutting laundry costs (aside from using cold water for washes) is to hang dry as much laundry as possible. That means using a clothesline or a drying rack, and as the weather gets better, the drying gets easier because you may be able to move your drying rack outdoors. A little wind works wonders. See our tips for hang drying laundry safely.
Kill the clutter, and recycle or donate
18. Get rid of stuff you don't need
Old electronics. Old toys. Crammed filing cabinets. Clothes you haven't used for a year or more. There are so many things you can remove that will liberate space and declutter your home. And most items are recyclable, from paper, to electronics, to that drawer full of batteries and used bulbs, to that cordless drill you thought you might fix but never got around to fixing. Read these recycling tips, or donate gently-used and/or energy efficient items.
Take a really big step
19. Recycle that second fridge
Sometimes it's full of beer. Sometimes it's a spot for those main fridge overflow items you bought in bulk at Costco. But mostly, it's plugged in, inefficient, and mainly empty. Maybe it's time to say good-bye and trim your electricity bills, as a really old fridge could be using $100 to $200 a year in electricity. Resist the temptation to sell or give it to someone else. Check returnit.ca for information on where to get it recycled.
20. Scrap your old car, and get a rebate
You love that old beast, but it's time for an upgrade... or something totally different. The SCRAP-IT program offers rebates on new electric vehicles ($6,000), used electric vehicles ($3,000), electric bikes ($1,050), transit passes and car shares when you take a gas-guzzler off the road.
21. Do an energy-efficient renovation or upgrade
Use BC Hydro's home renovation rebates for up to $10,000 rebates towards the likes of insulation upgrades, the purchase and installation of a qualifying heat pump, door and window upgrades, and water heaters.